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What is sclerotherapy?

Sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive, image-guided treatment that involves injecting a liquid medication into a vascular malformation to shrink and close it.

What conditions does sclerotherapy treat?

Sclerotherapy is most commonly used to treat vascular malformations (venous, lymphatic, and arteriovenous). These are abnormal blood vessels or fluid-filled channels that can appear anywhere in the body and cause pain, swelling, or other symptoms.

How does it work?

Sclerotherapy shrinks and closes vascular malformations by injecting them with a medication called a sclerosant. The sclerosant irritates the inside of the malformation, making it swell and close over time. Repeat procedures may be needed to close the malformation completely.

What will happen before the procedure?

Someone from the hospital will call you a few days before the sclerotherapy to tell you where to go when you come to the hospital. The staff member will also tell you when your child should stop eating, drinking, and taking medications before the procedure.

Your child may need to visit the pre-operative clinic, where he or she will meet with a nurse and an anesthesiologist and have any needed laboratory tests. You and your child will then meet with the nurse practitioner in the Department of Interventional Radiology. Please plan on spending two to four hours at the hospital for the preoperative visit.

What happens the day of the procedure?

When you arrive at the hospital for the sclerotherapy procedure, the interventional radiologist will talk to you about the procedure and ask you to sign the consent form. (You must be your child's legal guardian to sign this form. If you are a legal guardian and not a parent, you must bring the paperwork showing proof of legal guardianship.)

We will have your child change into a hospital gown and a nurse or anesthesiologist may start an intravenous (IV) line and give your child an anesthetic so he or she will be asleep for the procedure. Once your child is asleep, you will be escorted to a special waiting area.

What happens during the procedure?

The interventional radiologist will use ultrasound to guide a needle or catheter (a long, thin tube) into area to be treated. He or she will then inject a special contrast solution through the catheter to see the malformation and any connected blood vessels more clearly.

Several x-rays may be taken to determine which channels need sclerotherapy. The interventional radiologist then injects the sclerosant through the needles, watching it using ultrasound and x-rays. When the procedure is complete, the interventional radiologist removes all the needles and catheters and may place a bandage on your child's skin. Your child will be taken to the recovery room, where you may be with him or her.

The interventional radiologist will speak with you after the procedure and explain the results.

Are there any risks?

Sclerotherapy is generally safe, but it can sometimes have serious side effects. The interventional radiologist will explain these to you in detail before getting your permission to perform the procedure.

Your child will be exposed to ionizing radiation (x-rays) during this procedure. While we always attempt to minimize exposure to x-rays, we believe that the benefit of treatment outweighs the exposure that occurs during the exam. Because children are more sensitive to radiation exposure than adults, we adjust our equipment and procedures to deliver the lowest possible dose to young patients.

Sclerotherapy at Boston Children's Hospital

At Boston Children’s, the specialists in our Interventional Radiology Department are all experienced in performing sclerotherapy on infants and children.

Our team includes interventional radiologists, neurointerventional radiologists, anesthesiologists, nurse practitioners, nurses, and technologists.

Sclerotherapy | Programs & Services